Council houses across the Greater Brighton region could become cheaper to heat under ambitious plans to improve the energy efficiency of homes.
A report for the Greater Brighton Economic Board (GBEB) argues that if local authorities across the region work closely together they can more effectively make their properties more environmentally friendly.
GBEB has agreed to develop a business case for a joint project to make all council homes in the region zero-carbon, ahead of seeking Government support to trial the work in Sussex.
A retrofit taskforce was launched by the board in September 2021, with the aim of completing the zero-carbon work by 2030. The taskforce is co-ordinated by Lewes District Council, working with experts from the University of Brighton and the construction industry.
A clear constraint is that the retrofit must be funded from the local authority partners’ own housing budgets, but the report details how closer working between councils and their contractors could cut costs.
The cost of the proposed retrofit has risen steadily over the last 12 months, with both material and labour costs soaring.
In addition to the risk that this means councils in Greater Brighton can now not afford the full cost of the work, the report highlights that construction firms would struggle to complete the work by the deadline anyway.
Instead it suggests that improving the energy efficiency of all windows, doors, roofs and cavity walls in council homes could cut carbon emissions and be affordable. Switching tenant energy supplies from gas to renewable resources is also highlighted as a target.
Any remaining available funding could be used on climate change adaptation measures for properties to prevent overheating, such as better ventilation systems.
Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, the chair of GBEB, said:
“We have a clear and ambitious target in Greater Brighton to make each and every one of our council houses more energy efficient, reducing our impact on the environment and lowering the energy bills of our tenants.
“By better insulating our buildings and replacing our windows and doors with more effective ones, we can dramatically cut the amount of energy we use.
“It’s a long-term project that will bring long-term benefits so we’re acting now so we can see the work having an impact as soon as possible.”
An additional benefit of the retrofit programme is that it would provide assurance for skills colleges and those studying for apprenticeships that there is a significant jobs market on the doorstep for those completing training courses.
Lewes and Eastbourne Councils set up a joint venture called Clear Futures with engineering firms AECOM and Robertson Construction to develop supply chains with reduced costs, increased capacity and quicker delivery. GBEB noted that it could be an option to use Clear Futures to drive forward the zero-carbon homes retrofit project.
The Greater Brighton city region covers 7 local authority areas, stretching from Bognor in the west to Seaford in the east, and up to Crawley in the north of Sussex. Greater Brighton Economic Board was formed in 2014 to protect and grow the city region’s economy through creative, innovative initiatives which coordinate economic development activities and investment.